The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

The Jerusalem Post: A modern Orthodox born-and-bred New Yorker getting the job done in the IDF

July 14, 2016

By Marion Fischel


But it was while she was on her Masa Israel “gap year” program at Midreshet Ein Hanatziv (on Kibbutz Ein Hanatziv, near Beit She’an), which encourages its graduates to contribute to the state and to the advancement of Jewish society, that she made up her mind.

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

The Jewish World: Journey to find the light after darkness

July 13, 2016

By Dawn Kassirer


Dawn Kassier of Clifton Park recently attended the Masa Israel Journey’s five-month Career Israel internship program in Tel Aviv. She shared with The Jewish World some of her reflections on Masa, and her spiritual journey.


Since my mom passed away from cancer my senior year of high school 13 years ago, I have been on a spiritual journey with many obstacles. I am searching for knowledge, wisdom, healing and strength. I have a feeling that a magical energy has brought me back to Israel through a Masa Israel Journey internship program.


I am turning 30 this month, and find myself trying to accept that my life may not be what my friends’ lives look like or what society may expect.


In 2013, I was gifted with the opportunity to travel to Israel on a 10-day Birthright trip, giving me the chance to experience the country and learn more about the history of our ancestors. It opened my eyes to a land and culture where I felt welcomed.


Judaism— A Choice

There are parts of my identity and spirituality that I feel that I neglected for most of my youth.


I was fortunate to get close to my grandfather, Abraham, before he passed away two years ago. He and my grandma, Rose, my dad’s parents, were survivors of the Holocaust. I now know there is so much history and culture that I have yet to understand and discover about their journey, fight for liberation, and their resilience.


Growing up, I was never forced to practice Judaism and only attended synagogue on holidays with my family a couple times a year. For me, Judaism was a choice. I find myself on this quest to find out more because I want to learn the story, and share how one can overcome the most dark moments to live a full life with compassion and purpose.


In January, I decided to return to Israel for some self-discovery and reflection. I now feel I have a greater understanding of myself, my Jewish identity, and my family’s history. I have extended relatives in Israel and developed a better relationship with them, which is important to me. I don’t think I could have fully prepared emotionally or spiritually for what was about to unfold.


I learned about adaptive leadership at the Masa Global Leadership Summer in March. The best leaders can work with a team and also step back to figure out how to navigate/solve the tasks at hand. Knowing when to be a leader and how to lead, but also to listen to the environment around you are skills that I picked up at the summit. I will connect with some local Jewish communities and see if I can build some relationships to continue my education of the Jewish culture. My experience with Masa encourages me to live a more traditional Jewish life rather than the more secular one I’ve been living for my whole life.


Roller Coaster Of Emotions

Through Masa Israel Journey’s Career Israel program, for the past five months, I have lived, worked, and immersed myself in Israel. I interned in the marketing and communications department of Puzzle Israel, an amazing start-up that brings all aspects of Israel together—culinary experiences, cycling adventures, yoga retreats and history—to give travelers a real customized Israel journey. Puzzle Israel allowed me to combine my passions for fitness, travel, and marketing with a desire to connect the larger world to the amazing country of Israel with all its diversity and history.


Being accepted to attend a Holocaust educational trip to Poland as part of the Masa Israel’s leadership program created a roller coaster of emotions for me, but also allowed me to process my own family’s story. We experienced the death and the life in Poland; pre-Shoah, during the war, and life after the darkness. We traveled to Kraków and Warsaw, visited concentration camps, death camps, the ghettos, Jewish community centers, museums, and spoke with old and young Polish Jews.


At Auschwitz-Birkenau, I saw the place where millions of Jews and non-Jews were murdered. It was overwhelming to visit this place and hear about how many humans lost their lives. I am grateful for my grandma’s ability and luck to have survived. I feel very sad for all the people that perished. I wanted to know what happened, so I can share my family’s story. We can never forget what happened, but at the same time, I thought about whether my grandparents, if they were alive, would have even wanted me to visit these places where they lost their loved ones.



I reflect and think about what is the purpose of people visiting these places. It shows there is a need to see the evidence, a wanting to learn more, and an urge to remember. This was a very special and life-changing experience for me. It is hard to even put into words. I am very grateful I had this opportunity.


I have experienced many losses in my life including both of my parents before I was 17 years old, and three of my four grandparents as of last year. Despite these traumatic experiences, I’ve learned to feel the sadness, but not to allow it to become my whole life. It is easy to fall into the pit of darkness and depression. But we must never forget, must keep discovering, and lead with love. I give gratitude to my nana, aunts, uncles, cousins, brother, sister and close friends that continue to support me on my journey.


Dawn Kassirer, graduated from the University at Albany-SUNY in 2009 with a communications and business degree. She was an assistant manager at VENT Fitness in Clifton Park and a coach for its nutritional systems. She will stay in this area, she reports, at least until the fall or winter. “After living in Tel Aviv, I really enjoy the beach/outdoors culture. I may look into San Diego for work and move at the end of the year,” she said. She may be reached at


Originally published in The Jewish World.

So You're Feeling Homesick at Home: 8 Ways to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock

<div class="masa-blog-title">So You're Feeling Homesick at Home: 8 Ways to Deal With Reverse Culture Shock</div>

By Rachel Greenberg, Nativ alumna


It’s hard feeling like a stranger in your own home, but just as you needed time to adjust when you got to Israel, so too you need time to adjust back to life here in the United States of America.


When you were in Israel, you probably did not realize how much you changed every day, but you did. You learned from everyone around you, picked up new mannerisms, and adapted completely to a totally new lifestyle. So what happens now that you’re home? You’re not the same person you were when you left, but everything around you remains seemingly unchanged.

Here are some tips to help you deal with reverse culture shock:


1. Share your experiences

Now that you’re home it may seem like you’re alone, but your friends, family, and community  do want to hear about how you lived like a local, became a master negotiator in the shuk, and found your way around Israel via public transportation. Plus, if you become a mentor for others who want to go abroad, you will always have an attentive audience to share your story with!


alt="Become a Masa Alumni Mentor and help the next generation start the journey."


2. Stay Informed

If you’re feeling out of the loop, check social media and Israeli news sites to stay up-to-date with current events in Israel. This will not only help you feel connected, but you’ll be able to talk to other alumni and friends about what’s going on in Israel.


3. Write About It

Sometimes, the best way to express your feelings about your experience abroad is to write about. Writing allows you to positively articulate your feelings and express you sentiments about your recent return to America. Ten years from now, you will look back at something you wrote and you and make yourself fall in love with Israel all over again. Not to mention, we’re always looking for awesome alumni bloggers. (Email Andria at for more information.)


4. Stay connected

It's helpful to have people in your life who shared experiences with you in Israel. While you can reminisce with them about hikes and nights out, they're also experiencing the same emotions as you, and they're the only ones who are able to understand how you’re feeling without words. People you met abroad will be some of your closest friends no matter where you all end up living. The best part about staying connected with people you met abroad is traveling to see them for reunions!


"Reunite with your Masa squad and network with Alumni at a Shalom U'Lehitraot Party"


5. Seek new experiences

Find hidden gems in your area, get excited and have yourself a little adventure. Being home doesn’t mean you have to go back to your same old routine: meet new people, explore your surroundings, and try new things. You’d be surprised to find out how many places you don’t know about.


6. Make a Schedule

In America, one part of you will want to see everyone you haven’t seen in months, and the other part of you may want to stay in bed and look at pictures and videos from your time in Israel. Plan time in your schedule to reminisce, but also try to get back into your life at home by creating a schedule.


7. It’s okay to miss Israel

Whatever you feel when you get back from a life changing experience is okay. It’s okay to cry, it’s okay to laugh, it’s okay to plan a trip back, but it is important to not let missing Israel consume you. When you miss it, let yourself acknowledge the amazing experience you just had and use that emotion to realize how much you learned. You miss it because of how much you loved the experience and you wouldn’t want it any other way.


8. Let yourself process

Feel it. Dive in face first to everything your feeling. Embrace your emotions and give yourself permission to relax, absorb and really think about your time abroad. Be patient with yourself as you undergo the many different emotions and changes that come along with re-entry to America.


9. Rock your Israeli Look

Instead of trying to revert back to your old American fashion, wear your Naot in the summer, keep your new piercings with pomegranate studs, and rock your genie pants in the supermarket!

Reminisce about your Masa and Israeli experience here.


No Car? No Problem: An Introduction to PublicTransportation in Israel

<div class="masa-blog-title">No Car? No Problem: An Introduction to PublicTransportation in Israel</div>

Embarking on an Israel Journey = exciting! Being without your beloved car? Not so much. However, there’s need to worry: from buses, to trains, to taxis and more, there are plenty of reliable transportation options in Israel:


alt=Buses in Israel


Hitting the road on a bus is often the most common and convenient way to make your way around Israel. Most cities have local bus services and the average single ride costs about 5 New Israeli Shekels (NIS) – less than two dollars – though, prices vary by city. Inter-city buses tend to be the fastest and cheapest options for domestic travel. Explore bus schedules and routes here.


Rav Kav Card


If you plan to ride local or inter-city buses regularly, you’ll need to get a Rav Kav (pictured above), a personalized electronic bus pass with your name, passport number, and picture in order to purchase multi-ride tickets or an unlimited monthly passes known as a Chofshee-Chodshee... Note that bulk rides and monthly passes only work within your local region. When traveling between cities you will need to purchase additional tickets. Once in Israel, if you find yourself in need of a Rav Kav, your program staff will be more than happy to help you.


Trains in Israel

Another great way to travel throughout Israel is by train. Lines run frequently from Akko in the north to Be’er Sheva in the south, with lines also running to central cities like Modiin, Ramle-Lod, and also Jerusalem*. Trains are all equipped with air conditioning, electrical outlets and wifi making it a pleasant way to get to your destination. You can also purchase train tickets on your Rav-Kav (those things are so handy!). Check out train ticket info, schedules and more.


Jerusalem Light Rail


Within Jerusalem, you can also travel locally via the Jerusalem Light Rail, a tram that runs from Pisgat Ze’ev in the North to Mount Herzl in the West. Plus, the Light Rail will accept your local multi-ride or monthly bus pass.


*We generally recommend the bus to Jerusalem. It runs more frequently and drops you off right in the city center.


Shared Taxis in Israel


A monit sherut, more commonly known by locals as a sherut is a shared taxi and a uniquely Israeli mode of public transportation. You can think of these vans that set eight to ten people as a cross between a bus and a taxi. In some cities, sheruts follow predetermined routes along which you can hail a ride, or request to get off rather than being limited to pre-selected stops.


Monit Sherut


Depending on where you live, you might also find yourself taking sheruts to get from one city to another. They’re a convenient way to get to smaller towns in between the big cities because they tend to run more frequently than the bus and you can request to get off at any destination on the route.


Taxis in Israel


Like most other places in the world, there are taxis in Israel. Whether you choose a traditional cab or a more stylish ride, these private car services are obviously the most expensive form of transportation. Of course, splitting the cost with friends will definitely make this convenient option more cost effective, which is super handy when returning home late at night.


Israeli Taxi


The most important thing to know about Israeli taxis is that you want the driver to use the meter. Unlike many other countries, Israeli cab drivers are not required by law to use the meter. So, they’ll often try – very hard – to sell you a flat rate. That’s when you’ll INSIST on using the meter. It’s almost always guaranteed to be cheaper.


So there you have it: between the trains, buses, taxis and sheruts you'll have no problem getting to class or work on time, or planning a weekend getaway for you and your friends.




The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

The Jewish Advocate: The significance of Shabbat in Somerville

July 8, 2016

By Evan Rabin


I grew up as a Reform Jew in New York and went on to study at Brandeis University. However, I never really felt I had “Jewish” responsibilities to myself until I spent some time in Israel.

In the spring of 2011, I studied abroad at Tel Aviv University through Masa Israel Journey. While I learned a lot of Hebrew in Ulpan, and learned a lot about Israel and business studies in my other classes, it was often the conversations I had with friends that truly helped me understand what it means to me to be a Jew – and how Judaism fits within my own life.


Previously, I had not frequently honored Shabbat. It wasn’t until a friend expressed surprise that I didn’t think experiencing Shabbat applied to me, because I was Reform, that I realized I had been missing an experience that would grow to become dear to me. This conversation was one of the first to change the way I viewed my relationship to my Judaism. I wanted to observe Shabbat – I wanted to be involved.


After I returned from my Masa program and went back to school at Brandeis, I frequently attended Shabbat dinners and took part in Jewish learning at the campus Chabad. When I graduated four years ago, I moved back to New York, and found most of my new friends through the Jewish communities at the Moishe House and Chabad of Young Professionals.


Six months later, I moved to Boston to begin my career in technology sales, and the same thing happened – I frequented the Chai Center, Vilna Shul, CJP, JPulse, Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s and other Jewish organizations’ events. Long after I’d left Israel, I continued to feel most at home in Jewish communities wherever I went, whether local in Boston or as far as Goa, India, or Buenos Aires.


Fast forward three-and-a-half years, and I am still active in the Boston Jewish community, cochairing the Tremont Street Shul 20s 30s Committee and sitting on the Masa Israel Boston Alumni Board. Although I already consider myself highly Jewishly involved, my roots in Masa Israel, which helped me realize the significance of Judaism in my life, continue to lead me to explore new ways to connect with my Jewish identity and community.


So earlier this month, with the help of Masa Israel and OneTable, I did something I’ve always wanted to do: I hosted a Shabbat dinner in my own home.


My original intent was to have no more than 10 guests; after all, my apartment isn’t that big! But 16 people showed up, including six fellow Masa alumni. In Chabad-like fashion, I could not turn people away. I upped the catering order several times and purchased new chairs to squeeze in everyone.


It was a diverse group of people – both men and women, ages ranging from about 22 to 40, and birthplaces in the United States, Russia and Israel. Some of the people I’ve known for years; others I met recently. One attendee I met for the first time; he moved from Puerto Rico to Boston two weeks ago to study at Hebrew College Rabbinical School.


After schmoozing, we sung “Shalom Aleichem.” A friend from Netanya, Israel, led us in kiddush, and a fellow Masa alum made hamotzi. Then we dined on hot pea soup, meatballs, knishes, tofu, London broil, roasted chicken and schnitzel.


In between dinner and dessert, we made a few L’Chaims with beer and Jameson and sung songs and niggunim. A few of us got up and started dancing a la Peretz Chein, the shaliach at Chabad of Brandeis, who is famous for standing up on tables and dancing to song. We then ate a smorgasbord of desserts, including chocolates, rugelach and a peach pie.


The company, food and conversations reminded me of the realization that I’d had back when I was studying in Israel: participating in Jewish traditions, even something as simple as a Shabbat dinner, makes me feel more connected to my Jewish identity.


Now, the next time a friend asks me about my Judaism, I can proudly say I’ve studied in Israel, found a Jewish community, and even hosted my own Shabbat dinner – all thanks to my involvement with Masa Israel.


Originally publish in "The Jewish Advocate".

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

The Times of Israel: The Real Story of the 'Israel Backpack'

June 28, 2016

By Liran Avisar, CEO of Masa Israel Journey


In Israel, you see backpacks everywhere. They’re on the beach, on the bus, on hiking trails, on the banks of the Jordan River. Many of them sport insignia connecting them to an organized trip or sponsored tour. We would know, we’ve given out more than 110,000 of them over the past 12 years.

These backpacks come in handy when Masa Israel Journey’s more than 12,000 participants every year head to work or class, take a day trip to explore the country, or visit new friends from countries all over the world that they’ve met along their journeys in Israel.


The packs last much longer than an individual’s time in Israel, and they carry so much more than their physical contents. The bags we give out are not simply souvenirs, they are instruments—a critical tool in facilitating personal journeys, both figuratively and literally.


“Masa” in Hebrew means “journey;” the Masa Israel experience includes both a significant inner personal journey alongside an outward physical journey. When a young person spends an extended amount of time in any foreign country, let alone Israel, he or she starts to live like a local.


You see the beautiful, the ugly, the good, and the bad—you live your life alongside Israeli citizens. You walk in the streets with them, go to the market to buy your groceries with them, live next to them, work with them and see the cultural gaps when you interact with them. You sling their backpack over their shoulder just like they do.


We equip our participants with new backpacks as encouragement to explore, to immerse themselves in their surroundings. They come to understand the intangibles of Israel’s history, culture and current political state, and, in turn, strengthen their sense of self.


A key part of our educational vision is for our participants to reflect on their experience while they’re in Israel. Their backpacks’ physical appearance, with their own scuffs and scars, tell a story parallel to their personal journeys. A spilled cup of coffee here, a few specks of dirt from a recent hike there; the memory of their experiences abroad lives on through the bag.


These backpacks are not simply receptacles for possessions along the journey. They are the physical manifestations of each participant’s often entangled relationships with the Jewish people, the State of Israel and their own spirituality. The packs represent the new knowledge, skills, experiences and connections that participants collect throughout their time in Israel. Just as the backpacks last much longer than the programs themselves, so do the participants’ connections to Jewish life and each other. Masa Israel participants become part of a community forever united by their life-changing experiences in Israel.


The backpacks we distribute are a vessel for Jews between the ages of 18 and 30 – many of whom are not formally affiliated in the Jewish community – and are the same demographic described in Pew’s now infamous 2013 survey of Jewish Americans, to engage with Israel for a significant off-the-bus experience. Our goal is to allow participants to nurture a relationship with both native Israelis and Jews from around the world, which in turn empowers them to understand what’s at stake when it comes to the continuity of both the Jewish people and the State of Israel. In other words, the backpacks – and long-term experiences in Israel as a whole – serve to foster a level of depth in relating to Israel that has concrete results for Jews as a larger Diaspora community.


The backpacks provide a way for alumni to continue their lifelong journeys with a physical reminder of the transformative time they spent in Israel and the global community they have become a part of for life. This community is far more than a social network; it serves as a platform for connecting with professional opportunities, resources, and leadership development.


So, the next time you see a backpack with Masa Israel’s logo on it, take a look at the person carrying it and take a moment to think about where he or she has been, and more importantly, where they are headed.


Originally published in "The Times of Israel".


Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

Jerusalem Post: Seeing it as it really is

June 24, 2016

By Carmit Sapir Weitz


"In cooperation with Masa, Israel Experience has established a database of over 1,000 companies and non-profits that accept thousands of young Jews from around the world to work in internships for a period of between two to 10 months. Companies and institutions like HP, Deloitte, the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, Wix, the Jaffa Institute, Ahava, and Hadassah University Medical Center all hire interns through Israel Experience. In addition to interning, the young people participate in Hebrew language courses and meet with peers and immigrants from their country of origin."

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

Arutz Sheva: Idan Raichel to receive citation for cultural contribution

June 23, 2016

By Shai Landesman


"The Idan Raichel Project represents the beating heart of a conflicted region that has become a source of inspiration for younger generations, aiming for a better future. This is true for international audiences who are enriched by Raichel’s energy and see in him an exceptional vision of Israel open to the world. Their excitement during the many performances Raichel has made to “Birthright” and “Masa” audiences is contagious. This is a testimony to their familiarity with the vast body of his work that has already entered the pantheon of Israeli music."

Jewish Press: Hundreds of Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Jewish Agency Board of Governors Meetings in Paris

Jewish Press: Hundreds of Jewish Leaders in First-Ever Jewish Agency Board of Governors Meetings in Paris

June 22, 2016

By JNi Media

"France is home to the second-largest Jewish community in the world outside Israel, and Aliyah from France has topped the charts in recent years, with some 33,000 French Jews immigrating to Israel over the past decade, including 7,800 just last year. The Jewish Agency for Israel has increased significantly its presence in France, in order to handle the influx of French Jewish immigrants and has expanded specialized opportunities for French Jewish young people to experience life in Israel through the Masa Israel Journey and Onward Israel."

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

Vestnik Kavkaza: Jerusalem Day in Moscow

May 30, 2016

By Vestnik Kavkaza


"The festival was supported by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, the Government of Moscow, the Moscow City Duma, the Federal Jewish National and Cultural Autonomy, RJC Women's League, the Moscow Jewish Community House, Masa, ‘El Al Israel’ and the Open Channel."